Cheap website SEO, does it really exist? Learn the facts here


Just about any business small or large will at some point be faced with the decision on how to properly SEO their website.  It’s this need from small business owners, combined with the real complexities of how to get properly ranked on the web that has sprung up a whole industry of poor quality SEO agencies across the U.S. and the world.  After doing some quick searches on the web, I came across an interesting story of a Pest Control business in Arizona that took the time to share his experiences with some these low cost SEO companies, and the results they provided.Continue reading

How much should SEO cost?

How much should SEO cost your business?seo cost portland oregon vancouver washington

The answers to this question are as plentiful as websites returned on any given search on Google. As a business owner , you should be looking at SEO as a long term  investment into your business. So my answer is: “It costs you nothing.”

SEO – done correctly – should yield measurable return on  investment, therefore, the costs of quality SEO are far less than the return you should see  in positive sales and growth for your business. However, I understand that most business owners still want to know the bottom line when it comes to the cost of SEO and what they should be budgeting for this service.Continue reading

Are you really dealing with an SEO expert?

The 10 warning signs that the person you’re talking to is not an SEO expert.

In this day and age it’s pretty easy to come across someone who claims they are an SEO Expert.  As a small business owner you are no doubt contacted by several people every week via phone or email claiming they can rocket your business to the front of the pack for mere dollars per month.  So the question here is: with all these people claiming they can do the same thing, who is telling the truth, and who is selling SEO snake oil?Continue reading

Measuring The Effectiveness of Your SEO and PPC Campaigns

The Basics of measuring your marketing efforts

How to measure the effectiveness of your SEO and PPC efforts

seo and ppc measure effectivness with analytics portland oregon vancouver washington

When it comes to measuring your own SEO and PPC efforts, or perhaps you’re trying to measure your outsourced efforts, understanding what metrics to measure can be a difficult task.  The sheer amount of data that can be presented through programs such as Google AdWords or Google Analytics can make just about anyone’s eyes glaze over.  For business owners, reports like these often take a back seat to more important business functions.  So a question that we often get is how to effectively benchmark an SEO and/or PPC campaign for effectiveness, and when do you know its time to make a change?Continue reading

Looking for a SEO company? 5 internet advertising myths debunked

So you’re in the market for an SEO Company?

For many small businesses, looking for a qualified local SEO Company can be a daunting task. There are many factors to look at when choosing an ethical internet marketing and web design company for your small business, and unfortunately all too often small business owners make decisions on web design and internet advertising based upon convenience rather than diligent research.Continue reading

Three questions to ask anyone trying to sell you search engine optimization

Hiring a reputable Internet Advertising company for your small business may seem like an easy task. There are many choices out there when it comes to website marketing, search optimization and search marketing companies. Unfortunately the decision to hire a reputable company to handle your online advertising is not as easy as it may seem. In many cases, small business owners choose internet advertising based upon convenience, rather than diligent research, which can have unintended consequences down the road. Don’t become a victim of a company that doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

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Website Ranking Factors For Small Business (Part 1 of 3)

In this article series I will cover top-level factors that search engines use in determining where a website will rank for given keyword(s), and how a small business can use these factors to propel their website ahead of the competition, driving quality traffic through organic placement.

On Page Search Engine Ranking Factors for Small Business Websites

This first article will cover what is known as On Page factors, meaning what can be done on the website itself. We will cover the following:

  • Contentopen for seo business
  • Keyword Research
  • Keyword Use
  • Engaging Visitors
  • Updated Content
  • Page Titles
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Heading Tags
  • Indexing
  • Page/Site Speed
  • URL’s

Website Content

As I’ve written about before, website content is king when it comes to attaining rankings on the search engine results page (SERP).   I can not stress enough how important it is to have a good amount of Quality Content on each page of your website.  The old days of having a website with the same old, stale set-up of: Home, About Us, Services, Gallery and Contact Us are dead and gone.  The web and how people use it has changed dramatically, and to keep up with this change, the search engines have changed their game too.  Having quality content, with a purpose, will help any small business get to the first page of the search engine results.

For a more detailed explanation of why quality content matters and how the search engines have changed, please read my article on Google Caffeine and how it applies to small business websites.

Keyword Research for Small Businessman with mag glass

What keywords do you want to show up for?  How competitive is it to get to the first page for those keywords?  Do you know what keywords will get your phone to ring or get people walking into your store?  These are some of the questions that need to be answered when determining what keywords you will want to work on.

For many of my customers the first keywords they say are typically the hardest ones to achieve rankings for.  For example, and automobile mechanic in Portland, Oregon may want to achieve rankings for “Auto Repair Portland”, or something similar.  I typically try for rankings for less competitive, but higher converting keywords.  This has proven to be very successful for many small businesses.  So for an auto repair shop, I might suggest building a page directly targeting people who need to have their timing belt replaced, with quality content that explains why this auto repair shop are experts in replacing timing belts.  The auto repair shop gets to the first page of the search engine for a keyword such as “timing belt replacement”, the people that land on that page can see that this shop knows their stuff about timing belts, and thus coverts more of these prospects into customers.  This process can be duplicated over and over again for different services such as: transmission flushes, emissions repair, brake repair and so on.  A good quality, robust website will eventually get rankings for even the most difficult keywords with this tactic.  The question I ask many of my customers is “would you rather be on the first page for 150 keywords or 10?

Keyword research is a tough job that requires researching trends, search volume, and competitiveness.  Hiring a qualified SEO Company can take much of the guessing out of this task.

Keyword use in your website

Do you use keywords and phrases in your website content you hope to be found for?  If you’re trying to get rankings for the keyword “timing belt replacement” do you use that keyword string and related keyword strings in your content?  Do you know what words Google considers the same?  For example right now Google recognizes that the words “replacement” and “repair” are very similar, so serves results that are very similar for the searches of “timing belt replacement” and “timing belt repair”.

Understanding keyword similarities and using variances of these keywords on your websites text will help you achieve ranks for these desired keywords.

Engaging your website visitorsbounce

Do you measure “bounce rate” by page on your website?  One of Google’s engineers explains bounce rate as “I came, I puked, I left”.  High bounce rates point to one of two problems with your website.

Serve the information your visitors want.  Is there something that is distracting your visitors and making them want to leave?  What keywords is that page being found for?  If a website visitor thinks they are mislead when visiting your site, they will simply back out and look elsewhere.  So if you have a webpage about “timing belt replacement” make sure your information on that topic above the fold, where the visitor will see it quickly.  Making a visitor hunt for what they are looking for does little more than inflate your bounce rate.

Design and layout above the fold.  Is your page to busy?  Is your page confusing?  Page layout and message can start a prospect down your sales funnel, or can kill it.  Using heat maps of web pages can help web designers fix high bounce rate issues regarding layout and design of a web page.  Google Analytics also offers “In-Page Analytics” to help show click tracking on a page.

Updated Website Content

How often do you update the content on your website?  Is the content new and about topics that will get your website traffic?  One of the most important things that can get search engines coming back again and again to your website is creating new content.  I typically recommend two new pages or posts per month for each of the small businesses I work with.  Having Quality Content and constantly Updated Content builds a firm foundation for SEO success.

Page Titles, Meta Descriptions and Heading Tags

I’m not going into this as I wrote a previous article titled “Quick and Easy SEO for Small Business Websites” that covers this exact topic.  I will say that Page Titles, Meta Descriptions and Heading Tags all play significant roles in helping achieve rankings on SERP’s.

How to make your website easy to index

The search engines want to serve websites that are easy for normal people to use.  If your website is not easy for a search engine spider to use, they will assume it will be hard for a normal human to use also.  Making it easy for a search engine to find ALL of your websites pages, using alt-tags on every picture, limited or non-use of flash and using an Xml Site Map will help the search engines index your website.

Conversely, disabled back buttons, pop-ups, hidden pages, doorway pages, certain types of redirects, heavy use of flash, text in picture format and others make it hard for a search engine to index and will hurt your rankings.

Page and website speedspeedometer

This is defiantly one where you get what you ask for.  Your website speed and page load speed are factors that the search engines grade heavily on.  Pages that are loaded with lots of pictures, big header pictures, picture sliders with to many pictures, self hosted videos and flash laden websites all slow load speed of a website.  Search engines want to serve up websites that are quick and give their customers the information they seek quickly, and a slow website is counter-productive to that.

Cheap, inexpensive web hosting can hurt the speed of your website.  Google offers a free on-line website speed tester to see how fast your website is.  The tool also offers advice such as: browser caching, image optimization and others to help fix your speed issues.

URL Keyword Tagging

There is a little controversy these days over url’s with keywords in them getting better rankings.  There has been a lot of speculation over the last year that Google would be dropping this from their ranking algorithms, but since it hasn’t been announced, I will cover it here. URL Keyword Tagging is the practice of buying highly sought after url’s with keywords or keyword strings in the url.  For example, a carpet cleaning company in Portland might be interested in buying the url to try and target people searching that phrase.  The hope here is that the search engines will give added weight to that website since the url contains those keywords.

I typically don’t recommend spending the money that many of these highly sought after url’s cost for two reasons.

  1. Since there is speculation that Google will be dropping this from their ranking algorithm, the SEO boost for the time being versus the cost of the url may not bring a good return on investment.
  2. Keyword URL Tagging can be done by adding the desired keywords into the page slug, giving almost, if not the exact same effect.  I have used this on many of my customer websites, with excellent SEO results.

However, there are studies out there that point to these types of URL’s getting more SEO traffic, so ultimately I leave this decision to the business owner after weighing their options.

Next article in this series will be: Website Ranking Factors for Small Business – Off Page SEO

Quick and easy SEO for Small Business websites

How to correctly Search Engine Optimize your Small Business website

With some forethought and some website know-how, just about anyone can gain rankings for their website using white hat methods.  In this post, I will explain some top-level SEO tactics that will help anyone gain better rankings for the keywords they desire.

Correctly using Title Tags on your small business website

Title tags are used to quickly explain in 50 to 80 characters what your page is about.  This is what is shown on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) hyper-linked in blue as seen below.

Website Title Tag

Title tags should not be thought of as a Title for your page, but more as a Headline.  This is the first thing that people will see on the SERP, if it doesn’t speak directly to your most valuable prospects, it won’t get clicked.  What good is getting to the first page if you don’t get clicks?

Do’s and Don’ts for website title tags.

  • Do keep your title tag between 50 and 80 characters.  Try and target only one or two top level keywords, I also recommend adding a city name or two if you’re trying to attain ranking for city related searches.
  • Do only use “|” or “-” to separate keyword strings in your title tag.  These symbols are the most frequently use separators, and to someone quickly scanning results on the SERP helps break up keywords on what your page is about.
  • Do be specific and to the point in your title tag.  In the above example it should be clear to see that this website is about Cadillac Transmissions, Clutch and Differential Repair.
  • Don’t use the same title tag for every page on your website.  If you do, the search engines may think its duplicate content and your chances for ranking all your pages declines dramatically.
  • Don’t use more that one or two top line keywords in your title tag.
  • Don’t repeat keywords more than twice.  Remember you’re trying to entice people to click your website, stuffing keywords in the title tag does little to help with achieving clicks.

Meta-Descriptions optimized for search engines and visitors

Meta-Descriptions are the text under the title tag on the SERP.  When writing your meta-description, it is important to use your desired keyword(s) from your title tag.  It’s important to use your desired keywords naturally, with a few secondary keywords mixed in.  The meta-description should give a brief overview of what a visitor should expect to find on your page.  Small businesses may also want to add city names they service, or special offers such as “free estimates” or “find coupons here”, you could even add confidence factors such as “30 years experience” or “BBB Rated A+” or something to that effect.  All this needs to fit into approx. 180 characters, so really thinking about your desired keywords, cities and most valuable prospect  when writing your meta-description, while maintaining readability is key.

wrong way to do meta description
The wrong way to do a meta-description

As you can see in the above example, stuffing keywords into the meta-description does little to entice a prospect of visiting the website.  In this example I did a search for “Plumbers Portland, OR”, and unfortunately for these folks they are ranked 9 pages back, so kind of shows this tactic does not work (other factors not mentioned).  The example under them also shows a waste of title tag and meta description space.  I almost never use phone numbers in title tags or meta descriptions, they are a waste of valuable SEO space and do nothing to help rankings, unless you’re trying to rank for your businesses phone number, which seems like a silly thing to do unless your businesses name is something like 1-800-Got-Junk.

Are Meta-Keywords important to small business websites?

These days the search engines rate very little (if any) relevance on meta-keywords.  In fact many newer website building programs don’t even include a meta-keyword field.  However, if your website program does, filling in a few meta-keywords can’t hurt.  Most experts agree that 7-10 keywords per page is sufficient.  Make sure to use your primary and secondary keywords, variations on these keywords and any cities you are trying to rank for in this area.

Heading Tags to reinforce your websites contentheading tags good for seo

Heading Tags, sometimes referred to as “h tags” are much like headlines in an old fashioned newspaper make it easy for your readers to understand what the content on your web page is about.  They also helps search engines understand the same.

Correctly using a h1 tag on your website

Heading tags come in 6 different sizes from h1 (being the biggest) to h6 (being the smallest).  There should only be one h1 tag per page.  This tag should include your top level keyword, worked into a brief overview of what the page is about.  For the transmission shop above, a great h1 tag for a page talking about Cadillac transmissions, clutch and differential repair would be “Expert Cadillac Transmission, Clutch and Differential Repair“.

Sub-heading tags – h2 and h3

H2, h3 and h4 tags are used for sub-headings.  It can be tempting to try and stuff keywords into sub-heading tags, try and avoid this.  Sub-heading tags should be used to highlight what each area of content on your website is about.  Trying to naturally use primary, secondary or variations of these in h2 and h3 tags is good SEO.  As you can see from this article, I have used h2 and h3 tags, and tied in my primary keywords: small business, websites, search engine optimization.  I have also included some variations on these keywords, such as: optimized and optimize.

On blogs, it is not necessary to use a h1 tag as the post title should include what you would normally include on a static page h1 tag.

h4 and h5 Heading tags for small business city rankings

Using h4, h5 and h6 tags is not necessary for small business website SEO, but can be helpful in attaining rankings such as city specific searches.

Correctly using h4 and h5 heading tags to include pertinent information such as: area’s served or short lists of services can be helpful in letting the search engines know where your small business pulls customers from.  Unless you tell the search engine what and where your small business does its thing, the chances of you ranking high for these types of searches is almost zero.